I love this kid. I really hope he gets playing time this year because I believe he is going to surprise a lot of people. He is a very physical player who can rebound and after working with Clifford Ray, he will be even better. You just have to pull for a kid who has overcome so much, has such a great attitude, and works so hard.
OAKLAND — Leon Powe didn't attend his first basketball camp until he was 15 or 16 years old. Before that, there was nothing available to the former Oakland Tech High and Cal star.
"I couldn't go anyway ... I didn't have any money," Powe said. "That would have been huge for me."
Money won't be an issue for youngsters on Saturday, when Powe, about to begin his rookie season with the Boston Celtics, hosts the first Team Powe Basketball Camp. Open to boys and girls ages 7 through 18, the camp will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Merritt College.
Admission is free.
"I'm going to be there all day," Powe said. "I'll tell these kids the same thing I say to all the kids. You've just got to work hard, and when it seems like it's impossible, you've got to keep pushing until you've given everything."
The first 75 youngsters who arrive at camp Saturday will receive free T-shirt. Powe also plans to have other speakers on hand for the camp, including teachers, a lawyer and a banker.
"Basically we just want to give back," said Bernard Ward, Powe's mentor and friend. "He always said if he made it, he wanted to do whatever he can for kids. He knows a lot of kids can't afford it."
Powe will report to Boston on Sept.1 to find a place to live and begin preparing for training camp. "I'm ready to play," he said.
The Celtics are encouraged by what they've seen so far. Assistant coach Tony Brown admitted he didn't know what to make of Powe even after the club picked him in the second round of the NBA draft.
His opinion began to crystallize after an early August training camp in Las Vegas that featured rookies, but also veterans such as Jermaine O'Neal and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
"I had no idea who Leon was," Brown said. "But he's a physical-type player. He can rebound well. I was just impressed with his energy overall. And he wasn't playing against any slouches — there were about 60 NBA players there."
Brown said the Celtics have a need for a physical inside presence.
"It's amazing the kind of attitude he has," Brown said, alluding to the challenges Powe overcame while growing up. "He's well-mannered and very polite. I also like he can leave that at the door. When he competes he can take it to another level. If he can keep that going, he should have a nice NBA career."
This season, just like Gomes early last season, Powe will probably do a lot of watching from the sidelines, or possibly playing in the D-League. We just don't have the time to play him. Unless we play Gomes more at SF. This would open up some time for Powe.
Powe can score and he can rebound, and he does play physical. He just needs to keep working hard on his game and make the adjustment to the speed of the NBA.